Dangers in the Path to Destiny

A/N: From the new poll results, it seems that there are now three ideas that are heading for the cutting room floor. In the lead, is the betrayal idea. I didn't think that one would be such a popular choice to keep but it seems I will have to do that idea great justice. I already have other things in motion for the other ones. The last few chapters will help set the stage for the next and final part of the series. I can see that Dylan isn't quite a popular person with a good many of you. He's complicated, and he's not exactly out to make friends. Though with the childhood he's had, I think you would say that it's a miracle he's even this nice. You'll learn more about him and Lionel here. Also, we get a grim look at developments that will make things bleaker for Camelot and Albion's future and better for Wirtgernesburg's. And not all of them are from Vortigern and Mordred.

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain

~James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Chapter 26: The Drive of Hate

Merlin was brought out of staring at Dylan's back by a nearby moan of one of the beaten celts. The man was holding his stomach with one hand as he struggled to get to his knees. Merlin kneeled to him and helped him get to his feet.

"Don't worry, I got you."

"Thank you," the celt said trying not to flinch too much from the sores he was feeling.

Arthur and his knights went off to follow Merlin's lead and went to the nearest fallen celtic warrior. Some of the Order members that had been watching also went to carry some of the celts away. Arthur went to Bedivere who was still lying with his face in the grass.

"Bedivere," he said shaking him. "Are you okay?"

Bedivere just moved his head to face Arthur and nodded. He then went and had his face lie back into the grass.

Gaius didn't see any open wounds on any of these men so he thought that was a small mercy. He looked back at Dylan's trail himself and he couldn't help but think...that he might just know Dylan from somewhere. After a few moments he cleared his throat. "If any of you need any medical attention, please say so. I'm a physician and I could help any of you that need it."

A few of them didn't seem to have any sort of wound but they would have sores that would visibly bruise in a day. The knights started to help the celts walk over to the village by helping some to their feet and walking with them. There were some that were so hurt that couldn't even stand even with their assistance. Percival actually was carrying a man on his back and Elyan and Tristan both had to support a man whose knees were too sore to even slightly stand. Some of them were able to walk on their own but they did it at a slow pace and as they held their stomachs or their sides and also flinched with every other step. Gaius could see that he would have to prepare quite a few poultices for them to place over their sores.

Merlin had the man he helped up but arm over his shoulder and walked him right behind Gaius. His mind turned right back to Dylan. He couldn't believe that man. He didn't even think twice about hurting all these men. He could understand people getting hurt in training but this was something else. It was as if Dylan was just looking to ruthlessly beat these men instead of training with them. And to leave them like that? Without any care or even help them to get it. How could anyone be so cruel to their own allies?

Then there was what he had sensed coming off him. The magic that Dylan had was a strong and deep rooted darkness. The look in his eyes also played back in Merlin's mind. That cold and hard gleam in his eyes. He'd seen that look before...in Morgana's eyes when they had fought against her. Even if Connor insisted that he trusted Dylan, Merlin felt he was someone that he should be wary of.

Back on the field, Arthur was trying to get Bedivere to get himself on his feet. "Here, let me help you up."

"I'm okay," he said with his face still in the grass.

Arthur heard the sound of people coming to them and looked to see that it was Lionel and Malcolm. "Lionel, Malcolm," he said acknowledging them.

Malcolm ignored Arthur and bent slightly in front of Bedivere. "That grass must sure be comfortable, huh Bedivere?" he said with a bit of a tease in his tone.

Bedivere smiled slightly into the grass before he looked up at Malcolm with a dignified expression in his face. "Shut up Master Malcolm."

Malcolm grinned a little. "Nice, insult me with the use of my title. You're getting more loose with your lip every time I see you."

Bedivere went and sat up in place on the ground. "Well, I did have quite the example in that." he said grinning back at him.

"With the amount of time you spent following us and tagging along on Eire, I shouldn't be surprised," he said making Bedivere grin a little mischievously.

Arthur was happy to see that Bedivere looked okay in comparison to the others. He sees that Lionel had his overgrown pouch with those four dragon eggs that he didn't seem to let out of his sights. As Arthur gaze grew longer at them, Lionel tightened his hold and moved further away from his gaze. Lionel was slightly glaring at him as he tried to move the eggs further from him. Arthur looked about and didn't see Madoc anywhere nearby though. "Where's Madoc?"

"With Kilgharrah," he said simply before moving away from him. Lionel stood right at Malcolm's side. "Bedivere, you sure you're okay?"

Bedivere stopped grinning and became serious. "I'm fine. Really. The worst thing, besides my head still ringing a little, is my hurt pride but I'll get by."

Arthur got back to his feet and looked back in the direction that Dylan went off. "I have half a mind to teach that man some manners."

"Leave him alone," Lionel said curtly to him. "Dylan doesn't need to have a lecture from you."

Arthur just stared back at him with a slightly angry look. "Did you see what he did to everyone?" he said pointing at the now empty field. "Even when I'm at my most careless state, I know the fine line between training my men and beating them down. Dylan crossed the line."

"No," Bedivere said slowly getting to his own feet. "He just walked along it, that's all."

"What?" Arthur tried to refrain from yelling at the boy. "Did you see how you're fellow men look? He knocked you on the back of the head in a backhanded attack and you're defending him?"

"And who are you to say how he should act or not?" Lionel said folding his arms at him.

"You're defending him too?" he asked incrediously. Gaius' explanation of chosen keepers made him think that Lionel would be opposed to Dylan's sort of behavior.

Bedivere held his arm out to hold Lionel back. "I'm not happy with the blow to the head he gave me in surprise but I still am grateful to Dylan. He taught me what I needed to know in that session. As for my comrades, believe me, some of those men have suffered through worse. We're not going to be able to stand up against the cruelty of King Vortigern Tregor by being babied. I for one hate when people do that to me but Dylan didn't treat me that way."

Arthur was taken aback at that and seemed to not know how to respond to it. Bedivere had a hard look come over him when he got to the being babied part. Malcolm just coughed when the silence went for too long.

"I better be heading back to the city. Brigid has called for a meeting about organizing an expedition for herself and the other healers to go and gather plenty of herbs and potion ingredients to create a good stock for the war."

He straightened himself out and Lionel brushed off some of the grass that clung to Bedivere's shoulder. "Make sure that your men are okay."

"Of course I will."

"I'll help him do that," said Arthur.

Lionel caught Arthur's eye and just stared back at him without saying another word. Malcolm grabbed at Lionel's shoulder and pulled him away. Malcolm and Lionel walked off for the city while Bedivere watched them go off for a bit before he himself took off for the direction of the village. Arthur narrowed his eyes a little at Lionel before he followed after Bedivere. He offered to help him with getting back but he insisted that he could get to the village on his own two feet.

"I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I don't think that the Keeper of the Dragons trusts me. I know the dragons were brought to this point but I thought he would see that I don't want to hurt them like my father did."

Bedivere stared after Lionel again, more sadly this time. "That's only part of it. The Keeper...Lionel, he's had a traumatic past. The purge affected friends of magic just as hard as those who had it."

"Friends of Magic?" He'd never heard of something like that before.

"People who don't have magic but co-exist with them in peace." Bedivere explained.

"Like you and your fellow celts," Arthur said connecting the dots and looking back. "Like Malcolm and Lionel."

Arthur remembered that Lionel told Merlin that he used to be a servant to a dragonlord. He knew his father hunted down the dragonlords and no doubt killed Lionel's former master on one of the many raids across the land. He remembered the flinch at his whole name and the tense looks he got when he approached Madoc and looked at the eggs. He must think that he might try to hurt Madoc or the unborn dragons in the eggs if he got too close. A small part of him thought that Lionel's reaction to him was justified; after all, he did lead an expedition to destroy a dragon egg nearly two years ago. And, he did have a reflex to strike at Madoc, even if it was for a second, back when he first met the young red dragon. Yet, he also remembered that the Thorns also sought to use the eggs for evil and yet he didn't seem tense or protective around Dylan like he did him. Why?

"Yes," Bedivere said continuing his story. "and I heard that Lionel had originally gone by another name while he lived here in these lands. He and his parents had been attacked by bandits when he was a child in the woods. They were killed and he was left for dead and would've died if a dragonlord by the name Brim hadn't stumbled onto him about a day later. He was then taken in as his ward and Lionel went on to serve him in gratitude. When the purge started and Uther went for the dragonlords...Brim literally threw himself at your father and his men to let both Lionel and the dragon egg that was in their care, Madoc's egg, escape from them. The dragonlords were being killed off and their dragons being destroyed due to the secret efforts of the Thorn Kenrick as well as your father's soldiers using the weapons from the Bloodguard that they took. Lionel went on a one man mission to the sacred dragon caverns for the eggs they left behind. He managed to get to four of them and left for Eire and..." Bedivere stopped for a few moments, both talking and walking.

Arthur had been just listening patiently and quietly to Bedivere's story. He had told Mordred that he had done things to answer for but he had to know what more he had to answer for on his father's behalf. From even before that fight, it was clear that Mordred and the other Thorns were going to use all of the damage that the Pendragons had done against him. Sacrificing a life for his own, starting the Great Purge, stealing magical weapons from magical warriors and bringing the dragons close to extinction. He also had a feeling that Merlin knew a lot more of what his father and even he had done that he wasn't telling him, trying to smooth it over himself. He might not be his manservant anymore but he could see that Merlin was still trying to sort through his mess and even that of his father but this was something that he had to do, not him. His friends would say that it's not his fault that all this happened, and even if he did believe that, it was still his problem. So he needed to hear every story, every wrong, every spill of blood that is in his name. Merlin may be trying to convince the people of Albion that he could be trusted but he had to wonder just how much controversy Merlin faced in the last year when he did.

"What?" Arthur asked Bedivere when it was getting to be too long. He wanted him to continue.

"He changed his name to Lionel and went underground with the eggs...until he was found by both the Thorns and the Order of the Bear."

"Wait, why didn't he change his name back when he was safe under the Order's protection?"

"Lionel...hated the fact that it was him that Madoc and the other eggs would have to rely on in their lives and not someone like Brim. He feels that the wrong one was to die that day and his old master should've been allowed to live with those eggs so he killed himself by discarding his name and taking a new one. However, I don't know what his old name was."

"Now I get it." Arthur could not imagine that kind of hate that a person would have for themself to forsake their own name like that. Now he could understand a little more about his reluctance to let the dragons be in his presence. Bedivere had stepped into a sink in the ground and it made him flinch in pain and grip his head from the sudden vibration. "You okay?" he asked in concern for the young man.

Bedivere rubbed his head and nodded a little. "Don't worry. I'll be fine."

Arthur then remembered that Bedivere owed his head trauma to Dylan. "What about Dylan? Lionel seemed pretty taken with him despite the Thorns going for the dragon eggs."

"Oh...I guess it might be because he could sympathize with him. They share something strong in common."

Arthur thoughts went to both the Keeper of the Dragons and that former Thorn. What could they both share in common? "What is it?" he voiced out.

"Dylan isn't Dylan's real name either. Like Lionel, he also changed it because of what happened in the Purge."

Dylan had walked a little bit from the meadow before he got too restless and took to the air. He couldn't believe that both Arthur Pendragon and his friend Merlin thought that they could tell him how to act. How could the son of a tyrant king and a sorcerer who managed to live a life without so much as a pitchfork aimed for him everyday possibly understand?

"Brainless fools," he said to himself as their angry faces flashed in his mind's eye.

As the air hit his face, he let his mind wander to his past. His family were nobility that had a history of talented magic users as well. His grandfather was friends with Uther's father and his father served Uther proudly as his court sorcerer when he became king of Camelot. He even gave his father a noble residence in one of Camelot's richest towns, Bayston. He remembered living there and seeing his father when he could get away from his duties in Camelot for visits. Then Uther had his father killed with starting the Purge even though he served him faithfully. Then, even though he was barely 11 years old, Uther called for his own death but the men charged with protecting him announced their refusal to that...at least until Uther offered enough gold to overflow their pockets for years and they couldn't have him tied up fast enough then. He remembered when he was to be traded to some of Camelot's knights for that gold. That day, when he was to be traded, the people in Bayston, who would always say that they loved him, spat and glared at him as he was being taken away. He remembered feeling so betrayed and abandoned as he walked on in those ropes.

His lips broke into a small grin at remembering what happened next. He had something inside him snap and when the trade was commencing, a pair of large canine-like creatures materialized out of nowhere and started to claw, rip and tear into them. He later found out that he was a special brand of sorcerer called a Conjurer that could materialize things, though they never lasted for long. He had tapped into his pain and anger that day and conjured those monsters to save himself. Then he went on the run from patrols of King Uther and eventually found himself facing Micah of the Brotherhood of the Thorn. His upbringing from then on was...less than honorable. Dylan then shed his name and took on a new one to leave his former and lesser life behind. In fact, he could barely remember it now...Vilmer.

Dylan flew over the city of Albion and saw the people there going about, either doing their daily duties and routines or running around to do errands relating to the upcoming war. He touched down in front of the Manor's gates and the guards bowed their heads to them.

"Is Connor in?" They nodded and opened the gate for him. "Thank you." he said stepping past them.

Connor. One of the very few people that he could admit had his trust. He still couldn't believe that he could considering that their personalities were so opposite from each other. Dylan would admit that he had his trust but not his friendship though Connor would insist that they were indeed friends, even when Dylan insisted back that they weren't. Connor was openly kind, merciful, and unattached from many things that men in his position and power were known to seek. He also had no problem letting people in on his heart. Dylan, however, was hard, merciless; he wouldn't hesistate in killing if he had to and above all sought his ultimate revenge on those who have wronged him. He also found it near impossible to trust or rely on anyone with all the betrayals faced in his life. First it was from Uther and the men he was charged to and then Micah and the Thorns as well as the Tregors. Yet, despite all of those differences, they found they had a lot in common as well. The easiest to see was that they both suffered the same pain of losing their beloved fathers to the same master who betrayed them despite their loyalty.

He got to the door and went into the Manor and immediately found Connor speaking with a few of the healers of the city. At the sight of him, he excused himself and walked over to him.

"Hello Dylan. Glad to have you back."

"Glad you're glad then."

Connor smiled at Dylan's wit. "How did the training go? I know that you were going to work with Bedivere and a few of the celts today."

"It went well enough. They need a bit more work but I think they have what it takes to make the Thorns and their followers cause to be nervous."

"Good. My scouts have heard rumors of rogue sorcerers coming out of the woodwork to join Vortigern and the Thorns. If enough of them are seduced by the idea of using souls for power, then we'll have more trouble then ever before."

"I know...but," he said grimacing a little, "apparently my work for preparing the men isn't appreciated by everyone."

Connor caught his gaze. "What happened?" he asked like he was a child who misbehaved.

Dylan rolled his eyes but didn't want to lose his temper again so soon. "Oh, just Arthur and Merlin came at me with claims that I have problems with training the celts. They both gave me high and mighty acts against my methods. Though, they should've taken the time to notice that the ones I trained with didn't so much as pout at me while they were the ones to say anything at all."

"Well, you can be a little intimidating," he said trying to make him crack a smile. Dylan didn't even grin but he did have an amused glint in his eyes. Connor then went serious again. "Arthur and Merlin still don't know all about how we work but just give them some time. They are our allies now."

"No, they're your allies now, not mine. I'm sure you remember the vow I made. You haven't forgotten, have you?"

Connor closed his eyes and nodded. "Don't worry. I remember." Connor knew it well. Dylan had vowed that he wouldn't rest until he destroyed all who wore the crests of the Thorns, the crest of Palin and now Vortigern Tregor and that of Uther Pendragon. Dylan had stayed in Eire to protect Eire from any remnants of the Tregors' influence in penance for his past actions but he said that if Albion was ever in danger from Camelot, he would come back to these lands to destroy them before they could do anything more to any of them. Since Connor and the whole of Albion didn't seek another war it kept those feelings of his at bay but now that they were in an alliance, it made a new complication.

"The only reason that I'm not wiping Arthur and all his knights and soldiers right now is because in respect for you and you asked me not my hatred of the Thorns and Tregors trumps that of them. But if they keep this up then I could be tempted to handle lesser concerns first before I go for the bigger ones. This may no longer be all of us against them but its still personal for me."

Connor opened his eyes and stared back at him. "Yes Dylan, but I'm still asking you to just let them go in regards to that."

"You know I won't do that Connor," he said in a low voice that he almost didn't hear himself. "The fact that I'm even have to be called Dylan should tell you that much. I'm sure that Lionel would understand why I can't perfectly."

Connor wanted to argue more but he knew it wouldn't help any. "Okay," he said settling down. "But hold out on doing anything until Vortigern and the Thorns are gone first. I'll speak to Merlin and Arthur to back off when it comes to you."

"For their sake, I hope they listen to you. If it helps, tell them the truth. Assure them that I'll save Arthur and his men for after we are victorious so they better hope that I get killed before then."

"Well, I don't." he said looking at his friend solemnly. He would never want to see Dylan dead and wouldn't take too kindly to anyone that wished for his death either.

Mordred was off in a corner of Vortigern's throne room caressing the blade of his new weapon. The sight of the Crystal of Neathid giving it a further gleam of magical power. Vortigern had christened his special sword like weapon Clarent. He thought it was a beautiful name fitting the beauty of it's magic. Mordred had spent all the free time he had for the last week practicing and training with it to unlock its full powers. He cut through dummies with relish as he imagined foolish Knights of Camelot and treacherous members of the Order of the Bear in their place. He found the more fire he had in striking down his targets, then the more energy was let loose from Clarent. He also was able to have his Clarent launch magical bursts that could reduce dummies to ashes. Yet, the forgers of Clarent who observed his training kept saying that he still didn't tap into the full powers of his sword.

Vortigern insisted that he have his best smiths to work on its creation and that they use enemy silver, their runic knowledge and energy tapping techniques to incorporate both the magic of the wielder and the magic of the crystal into its design. He had said that he wanted it to be fit for this new kingdom's champion. A great proclamation was made naming Mordred as such and that bit was announced throughout the kingdom that now officially included the lands of their conquered enemies and fallen allies. Vortigern was happy to see that this bit of news made more rogue sorcerers come to join him in hopes of power and glory on top of those that wished revenge on Arthur Pendragon for the actions of him and his father against them.

Right now, Vortigern was also in the throne room, in his throne, waiting on Mab and Nemain to arrive from where they had been stationed to consolidate their power in the land. King Lot's men had just been sent off, back to their king with news of the accepted alliance and Vortigern would personally visit in a few weeks to see his supposed gift to use against Merlin and his dragon. Soon the doors opened and in walked both the Thorns' women majestically.

"Mab, Nemain," he said kissing both their hands. "It's great to see you again."

Mordred followed his example. "It's great to see you again."

"And you as well Mordred," said Nemain.

Mab chuckled as Mordred kissed her hand. "I see that your castle has been completed. It's wonderful. Tall and powerful. Suits you perfectly."

"Yes," Vortigern said with a small chuckle. "Those Camelot knights and soldiers might not be good at defending a kingdom but they make good slave labor to build the castle for one."

"Where are they?" asked Mab.

"Oh," Mordred said putting his hands behind his back and rocked himself on the balls of his feet like an excited child. "After we finally got everything out of the vaults, we converted them into their new dungeons. My own idea that the sorcerers we recruited were only to happy to help with. They put pride in locking magic up in there so what could be more fitting then having those of magic locking them there as well."

Nemain let out a breath of amusement before she went sucked in lips slightly. "We heard the news. Angus has truly been destroyed?"

"Unfortunately," Mordred said with a sullen nod. "He used too much of his power in building up the magical resistance in his hippogriffs and didn't have enough time to charge himself before we engaged them. Otherwise, he never would've fallen."

Vortigern sighed but became focused again. "But we are still far from beaten. If they think that they've won because we've lost Angus then they are more foolish then we all thought. Especially with our newest findings."

Mab cracked a smile. "So you've got to them then?"

"Why do you think I called for you? Micah ensured that the chest could only be opened by one of the originals and, sadly, with the demise of Angus, you are the only one left Mab. We should head for the vaults."

"Then why did you summon me Vortigern?" asked Nemain. "Though I admit that I did need a change of scenery from that little fortress of Godwyn's you didn't need me here for this."

"Yes, I have a duty for you to perform here as well considering what we found along with Micah's chest."

Nemain found herself in the armory where there were already about thirty men there. Most of them were sorcerers that had come pledging their support and now they were going to be made into an elite force. Yet, when their lesser sorcerer disciples tested them, these men were far from the level needed to engage foes like the Order of the Bear. The strongest that a few of the men in this room could do was maybe fling one or two people onto their back with a word but that wouldn't be enough. However, instead of just turning them away, Vortigern thought of something to still make them an asset that was useable in their plans. They needed a little something extra to compensate for their lack of power.

"Thank you all for coming," Nemain said starting the purpose of this gathering. "I am Nemain. One of King Vortigern's high council."

"Why are we here?" asked one of them.

"Yeah, we heard that we were to be given something beyond our wildest dreams." said another.

"And you are," she said making her way to a two tables to the far end of the room covered up in cloths. "Granted, you all have magic and our new king finds it vital in his plans but some of you," 'more like most of you' she added silently. "are far from the power it would take to conquer the enemies that are soon to descend on us. Therefore, we believe that you all need something if you are to serve him in the way you desire."

"What is that?" asked a man she couldn't see. "You're going to train us?"

'Training you whelps would be a waste of time, even though I have an infinite amount," she thought to herself. "That would take too long," she said out loud. "But we have something to make it so you could work with the higher ranking sorcerers we already have." 'Or make you actually useful' Nemain wished she could've said. She then yanked the cloths off the tables to show off the display of swords, shields, axes, spears, lances and other miscellaneous weapons in the collection. "We will arm you with these magical weapons. Actual mystical ones taken by Uther from the mighty Bloodguard themselves."

Soon after leaving Nemain, Vortigern, Mordred and Mab had made their way to their castle's treasure room. They walked to a pedestal that had a wooden chest that didn't seem to have a lid on it. There was an engraving of the Thorns' symbol carved at the top.

"Finally," Mab said passing her fingers over it. "Stolen by the High Priestesses from us Thorns long ago and guarded by the Bloodguard. Yet, thanks to Uther pride, he's handed us back our most greatest asset again."

"Yes," Vortigern said nodding with a smile over his face. The stories that the Thorns would tell him of it when he was a child. Of the possibilities it would unlock. "Do you remember how to open it?"

"Don't worry, I remember everything that Micah ever told me and did with me," she said with a snicker.

Vortigern rolled his eyes. "Just open it." he ordered.

She rolled her eyes but let herself become serious. "Very well." She silently chanted to herself before she opened her mouth and held a palm in front of it. Suddenly a light seemed to come from within her open mouth giving extra light to the room. Soon a ball of light came out it fell into her waiting hand. It was one of the souls she had consumed and she held it out in her open palm. She became a little breathless from the loss of it but didn't falter. She focused her gaze on the box and injected the soul into the box through the engraving. As it sunk in she started to chant audibly.

"Erbyn Hyn Enaid, yr Wyf Wnued Cais I Chi Fod yn Agored ac yn Rhyddau Grym o Fewn." As she chanted the soul sunk lower until it was fully absorbed into the box by the time she was done. Light seemed to leak out of the chest and made lines by the top in the area that a lid would be and it burst open.

The three of them fanned away some of the dust that rose from within and gazed at what was inside. Three very special ancient artifacts sitting on a velvet cushion, a dark metal covered tome, a set of jeweled and engraved bracelets and a dagger that would practically make anyone wielding them just short of invincible.

"This is it?" asked Mordred. "This doesn't seem so special compared to the weapons that we got to."

"Oh...just you wait my boy," Mab said lightly caressing all three of artifacts. "These things will open the way to power that makes the magic of the Old Religion pale in comparison."

"And will grant me the true immortality my father sought long ago." finished Vortigern.

End of Chapter 26

A/N: Hope you liked that one. For Lionel's original name, I did mention it back in Chapter 23 when Kilgharrah called him it from his previous memories of the Keeper. Also, Mordred's weapon, Clarent; that is the name of Mordred's sword in the legends. I also read up on Clarent's and Excalibur's relationship in the Nicholas Flamel book series and it sealed the deal for me. As for the artifacts in the chest that Vortigern has been wanting for a long time, tell me what you think or your guesses on what they could be about. I doubt you will get it but I still want to see if someone gets warm. I will say that it's nothing that has appeared in the series before but I think would've shown a definite side of evil.

Erbyn hyn Enaid, yr Wyf Wneud Cais I Chi Fod yn Agored ac yn Rhyddau Grym o Fewn - By this soul, I bid you to be open and unleash the force within